Opus is a 29 year old thoroughbred who has lived in Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain and the UK. He is extremely experienced and a natural connector. He doesn’t connect in an obvious way and he teaches clients that connection can look very different for everyone.
As it is national story week this week, the following true story is an extract from my book Leading through uncertainty and demonstrates Opus’s commitment to clients and learning.
Talking about Opus
Opus was 50 metres away in a small paddock standing behind a 5 ft bale of hay, eating. You could just about see him behind it. The gate to the paddock was open as Opus has the full run of the yard when I am onsite. It’s his privilege as the old man of the herd.
As I started to explain about Opus being retired, he looked up and stepped to one side of the hay bale so we could see him. One of the clients gasped: “Does he really know you are talking about him? Have you trained him to do this?”
Yes, the horses know when we are talking about them, and no, I have not trained them. In fact, it’s the opposite. All of my horses are encouraged to be themselves, to be as close to a natural horse as is possible in a domesticated environment, to have an opinion and to assert their right to make it clear. It sounds incredulous but this is a pattern that plays out repeatedly when introducing clients to the horses.
Using connection and intuition
We continued our conversation, and I explained that Opus had free run of the yard and would probably want to come and meet them at some point throughout the day. At that moment, Opus walked out of the field and up the yard towards us. He stopped half way and stood sentinel outside the gate to the arena. We were heading there next, and he knew it.
We walked down the yard to enter the arena, and Opus blocked our path. He stood quietly, commanding respect and attention. As each client walked past him, they said hello to him. Some of them stroked his neck, others let him sniff their hand. They were completely in awe of what had just happened. Once each person had said hello to Opus, he relaxed further and let them pass. When one person tried to pass him without saying hello, he stretched his neck out and blocked their way until they said hello. There was no doubt who was in charge in this moment, and the connection was felt deeply by everyone.
Connection and respect in relationships
People are often surprised by my relationship with the horses. They comment on how connected we are, and how much respect I give each of them. The horses are allowed to have their opinion, and we work with them without using force which is rare in any walk of life. As soon as we revert to force, we have ceased to lead. I invite the horses to want to work with me and my clients. As a result, their level of engagement is high.
Connection looks and feels different to everyone. Some people only feel connected when they are physically in the same location whilst others feel connected at a distance and out of sight. Opus is formally retired from working with clients but he is always connected to me and always pays attention. If I mention his name, he will lift his head and start to walk towards the gate. This always surprise clients. They ask if he heard me mention his name when he is at least 50 metres away. He doesn’t, but he senses when he is being spoken about, just as you sense it in the office too. This is the power of connection.
Learning from Opus and the horses
When clients experience the depth of connection they get with the horses, they feel the power and also the vulnerability of being in connection. Once they have experienced connection in this way, they are less afraid of it and return to the workplace knowing how to connect in a variety of ways according to different needs.
If you would like to develop leaders and teams who are more connected and aligned,
contact me on 07584 248822 to discuss how I can support your business